I took my seat for a daylong meeting on Tuesday this week, a little tired, up since 4:30 a.m. But with coffee in hand, I was ready to learn. 

I was surrounded by a variety of interdisciplinary team members in a beautiful community outside of Nashville, Tennessee. At my table, three community administrators, all chatting about their mornings and taking last-minute calls from sites before the day begins.

As I make my name card, I review the agenda, “Driven by Data: The Road to Success in Healthcare Delivery.” OK, sounds great! 

Data, its use, how we interpret it, and how we put it into action is at the forefront of most discussions in our space at this point. No shocker that data would be the focus today.

Second hot cup of coffee later and pen in hand, I was ready to go!

You can imagine my surprise when the opening speaker began her discussion with a team-building activity for us all to share three “I am” statements. 

Hmmm, this is not the norm for data presentations.

The intention here set the tone for the entire day. This exercise is rooted in having us all understand a little about one another outside of the professional world with the goal that data in absence of human connection is just that… data. 

It should come to no surprise to you that the speaker and the organization hosting the event also had not one, not two, but three award winners last week at McKnight’s Women of Distinction ceremony.

The opening speaker was none other than Sharon Roth Maguire, SVP, Chief Health & Wellness/Resident Experience Officer for LCS, and as she encouraged us all to share, she had the room in the palm of her hands. 

One key metric that she presented to further drive home the point of human connection as a driver for person-centered care is the Human Understanding Metric (HUM).

In healthcare, the emphasis on patient-centered care has never been more prominent. As physical, occupational, and speech therapists working in skilled nursing facilities, the use of the Human Understanding Metric (HUM) into your practice can significantly elevate the quality of care provided, she explained. 

This innovative approach focuses on understanding patients not just as recipients of care, but as holistic individuals with unique needs, preferences, and backgrounds.

What is the Human Understanding Metric?

The Human Understanding Metric is a comprehensive framework designed to enhance the empathy and understanding healthcare providers have for their patients.  It encompasses several key components:

  • Emotional Understanding: Recognizing and responding to patients’ emotional states.
  • Cultural Competence: Respecting and integrating patients’ cultural backgrounds into care plans.
  • Communication: Ensuring clear, compassionate and effective communication.
  • Personalization: Tailoring care plans to meet individual patient needs and preferences.

By implementing HUM, the interdisciplinary team and therapists can foster deeper connections with their patients, ultimately leading to better health outcomes and improved patient satisfaction.

Let’s break down each area more specifically.

First, emotional understanding. 

Understanding and addressing the emotional needs of patients is crucial. Therapists should develop active listening skills to truly hear patients’ concerns and experiences; show empathy and validate patients’ feelings, which can help in building trust and rapport; and be aware of non-verbal cues that may indicate emotional distress or discomfort.

Second, cultural competence.

Cultural competence involves recognizing and respecting the diverse backgrounds of patients. Therapists should engage in ongoing education about different cultural practices and beliefs; incorporate cultural considerations into treatment plans and communication strategies; and encourage family involvement to bridge cultural gaps and provide support. We are all in this together. Engaging family when available is essential. 

Third, communication. The speech-language pathologists’ favorite step!

Effective communication is the cornerstone of patient-centered care. Therapists should use clear, simple language that patients and their families can easily understand; utilize visual aids or demonstrations to enhance understanding, particularly for patients with cognitive impairments or language barriers; regularly check in with patients to ensure they understand their treatment plans and feel comfortable voicing concerns.

Finally, personalization.

Personalizing care means tailoring interventions to meet the specific needs of each patient. Therapists should conduct thorough assessments to understand patients’ histories, preferences and goals; involve patients in the development of their care plans to ensure their priorities are addressed; be flexible and adaptable, making adjustments to care plans as patients’ needs evolve. It’s not all about us! Let your patients drive decision-making. 

In conclusion, incorporating the Human Understanding Metric into the practices of physical, occupational and speech therapists in skilled nursing facilities is a beneficial step towards delivering truly patient-centered care. 

Want to learn more? While there is a wealth of materials on Human Understanding Metrics, NRC Health provides beneficial resources, materials and case studies you can share with your teams to get ideas flowing. 

Human first, data second, it’s the approach those we serve deserve!

Renee Kinder, MS, CCC-SLP, RAC-CT, serves as the Executive Vice President of Clinical Services for Broad River Rehab. Additionally, she contributes her expertise as a member of the American Speech Language Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Healthcare and Economics Committee, the University of Kentucky College of Medicine community faculty, and an advisor to the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Current Procedural Terminology CPT® Editorial Panel, and a member of the AMA Digital Medicine Payment Advisory Group. For further inquiries, she can be contacted here.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.

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